Rice is a staple in most households that are trying to save a buck or two. You can usually buy a good size bag for a little over a dollar. But then what? Do we just have to face that pile of plain rice with our meals if we want to save money? Thankfully I’ve learned that there are some easy and frugal ways to quickly jazz up those humble servings of rice.
Let’s face it . . . plain white rice can be very boring. That’s why I used to love buying those pre-packaged rice mixes that come in flavors like cheddar broccoli. But then I wised up and realized they weren’t a very good use of our hard earned money. For a little more than the price of just one of those little packages of flavored rice mix, I could buy a nice big bag of plain long grain rice. There was just one teeny problem.
At first, I had no idea what to do with a bag of long grain rice.
I grew up in a “potatoes” house. The only time my mom used rice was in casseroles, and then she just threw in some Minute Rice. I was in pretty unfamiliar territory. But I gave it a go and sure enough, after several tries I finally had the timing down and realized cooking “real” rice wasn’t such an intimidating thing after all.
Initially I did miss my flavored mixes. I looked through lots of recipes for ideas and came up with three of my own versions that have now become reliable staples at our house. I find that I don’t even miss the store bought packets of flavored rice anymore and it’s been years since I’ve purchased them. The basic strategies for white rice that I came up with have also been a good starting point for me as I’m learning more about things like brown rice and quinoa now too.
How To Flavor and Cook Long Grain Rice
When it comes time to jazz up my plain rice, I like to use the strategy of flavoring my cooking water with some bouillon or base, and then adding some easy pantry spices. When I first created my rice recipes I used to always use the powdered chicken bouillon. However as time went by, I’ve switched to the “Better Than Bouillon” brand and use their vegetable flavored base. It’s simple to always keep a jar of this base in the refrigerator and it can also be cheaper than buying premade cartons of stock for the cooking water when making your rice. (Sometimes I’m more ambitious though and make my own vegetable stock.)
Once I’ve flavored the cooking water with my vegetable base, I sprinkle in some pantry spices – usually dried parsley, garlic salt, and onion powder for my basic go-to recipe.
I used to also add in a tablespoon of butter but over time I’ve eliminated that to reduce fat. However I’ve left that as an optional ingredient in the recipes below.
Then it’s just a matter of adding the rice and letting everything simmer and hang out on the stove for about 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and has absorbed the water.
For my other two flavor options, I just add in a few more spices for the Herbed Rice, and I use the easy ingredient of salsa in the Spanish Rice.
All of these recipes make about the same amount as one of the pre-packaged flavored mixes from the store and are a great way to just make your own instead!
Frugal Ways To Flavor Plain Rice
- 1 Cup Water
- 1 tsp Chicken or Vegetable Base (or bouillon)
- 1 Tbl Butter or Margarine (optional)
- 1/2 Cup Long Grain White Rice
Option #1 – For Basic Flavored Rice also add:
- 1 tsp Dried Parsley
- 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
Option #2 – For Herbed Rice also add:
- 1 tsp Dried Parsley
- 1/2 tsp Dried Minced Onion
- 1/2 tsp Rubbed Sage
- 1/2 tsp Celery Salt
Option #3 – For Spanish Rice also add:
- 1 tsp Dried Minced Onion
- 1/2 Cup Salsa
- 1/2 Cup Frozen Corn (optional)
- In a medium size saucepan, combine the water, the chicken or vegetable base, and the butter if using.
- If you are making Option 1 for basic flavored rice, add the parsley, onion powder, and garlic salt to the pan.
- If you are making Option 2 for the herbed rice, add the parsley, minced onion, sage, and celery salt to the pan.
- If you are making Option 3 for the spanish rice, add the minced onion, salsa, (and corn if using) to the pan.
- Then place your saucepan on the stove and bring your flavored water mixture to a boil. Once it is boiling, stir in your half cup of long grain rice.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let things simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice is softened and the water is absorbed.
- Remove from the heat, stir to fluff up the rice, and then serve.
Note: This post was originally published September, 2010 and updated March, 2020.